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Lantana lifeguard bitten by shark this week

Posted at 4:59 PM, Oct 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-19 16:59:44-04

Since the start of September, we've reported on three different people getting bitten by sharks across our beaches.

Lifeguards say migrating bait fish are to blame for more sharks near the shore. Murky waters don't help, either.

In a twist of irony on Wednesday afternoon, a lifeguard himself became the victim of a shark bite while on duty at Lantana Municipal Beach.

With both bait fish season and tourism season underway, he wants to warn others to be on alert.

Carlos Iribam has a lot that keeps him busy.

"Right now, I'm a full-time firefighter for Brevard County," said Iribam, who is also a boat captain.

He works as a  part-time lifeguard for beaches in Lantana and Boynton Beaches but right now he's on the mend.

"I'm very happy that I didn't lose my foot," he said.

While on duty Wednesday, Iribam says he was bitten by a 4 to 5-foot spinner shark just 20 feet offshore.

"I was out there swimming and then I got stung by a jellyfish, I was like 'Ahhh, I think I should go back in,'" he said. "Next thing you know, I felt a crushing pain on my foot."

Iribam was able to come to shore himself and receive assistance from his fellow lifeguards.

"I like to stay calm in these situations. I didn't want anybody on the beach to freak out," he said.

In pictures, you can see the deep bite mark traced over his foot. His heel and tendons are especially damaged.

This bite happened just a few miles away from where a surfer was bitten by a possible hammerhead shark in Lake Worth last month. That shark was also trailing bait fish.

Another man was also bitten in mid-September on Palm Beach. At the end of August, a three-year old was attacked by a shark at Bathtub Reef Beach in Martin County.

Iribam said swimmers and surfers need to keep an eye out for schools of fish before getting in the water. Lifeguards are trained to warn and protect beach-goers.

"If you don't mess with them, they won't mess with you. I felt like when he bit me, he nipped me and pulled. It just felt like a crushing pain and he just let go because he knew it wasn't a mullet," he said.

Iribam says he's not afraid of the water. He's ready to get out of the house and back to his lifeguard post.

"I'd still go into the water to this day. It's just an accident, it was nothing the shark did," he joked.

The mullet bait fish run will continue for the next few months.

Iribam said his doctor actually had to give him antibiotics because of the freshwater mixture in the ocean from Lake Okeechobee discharges, which is certainly something to keep in mind while swimming at the beaches this month.

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